PROPAGANDISTS behind rival camps of the Communist Party are escalating campaigns to glorify the achievements of patriarch Deng Xiaoping and his ''rival'', chairman Mao Zedong. Western diplomats in Beijing said the ''semi-personality cult'' around Mr Deng, who turned 89 last month, climaxed with the publication this week of My Father, Deng Xiaoping, a biography by daughter Deng Rong. And celebrations of the centenary of the birthday of the Great Helmsman are gearing up with a plethora of media eulogies and Mao memorabilia in the market. The diplomats said the ''competition'' between the two camps of propagandists reflected factional strife within the party. In a long dispatch yesterday on the biography, Xinhua (the New China News Agency) played up the masses' ''thirst'' about the paramount leader. ''I adore Deng very much. Every day I read the book's excerpts in the newspaper, but this cannot quench my thirst,'' Xinhua quoted Wang Changrong, a middle-aged office worker, as saying. The 672-page tome ''is expected to shoot high on China's best-seller lists'', Xinhua said, adding that the first printing was set at 400,000 copies. Priced at 13.8 yuan (HK$18.50), the book on Deng between his birth in 1904 and 1950 is being sold both by state bookstores and directly through government work units. Xinhua said people had ''flooded'' the publisher with requests for copies. ''You must save one for me. I will buy the book no matter what the cost,'' wrote Chen Yongbiao, a rural preliminary school teacher from Jiangsu. ''It is Deng who has changed our lives profoundly. I want to review all of the information available on the world-renowned statesman,'' wrote Xiao Gaojian, a worker. Xinhua said publishers in Japan, South Korea, France, Hong Kong and Taiwan had all obtained rights to the book. Potential buyers in the United States and Britain are still in negotiations. Meanwhile, marking the 17th year since Mao's death and the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Chinese press has published a virtual catalogue of commemorative souvenirs. Tributes also included an article in the official People's Daily by Chinese billionaire Rong Yiren. Mao, who died on September 9, 1976 in Beijing at the age of 82, would have been 100 years old on December 26 this year. The Chinese press this week published several articles commemorating the centenary, an event which has increasingly taken on the aspect of a giant trade fair. From simple embroidered doilies to laser discs of his most famous speeches and watches and clocks decorated with his effigy, newspapers have come up with a virtual catalogue of Mao memorabilia. The China Youth Daily carried a detailed article on a special edition centenary 24-carat gold watch, made in the southern city of Guangzhou, and encrusted with rubies and diamonds and boasting Swiss technology. The price for the 9,999 limited edition watch is 8,888 yuan, symbolic of the good fortune associated with the number eight. For less wealthy comrades, the China News Service announced yesterday the production of a silver badge.